After the breakdown of Russian-Israel talks, the Russian Air Force on Saturday night, June 23, bombed Syrian rebel targets in support of Assad’s southwest offensive. This was contrary to Russian promises to Israel. The Russian bombers taking off from the Hmeimim air base in Latakia, launched 25-30 sorties over the small town of Busr al-Harir in Daraa province bordering on Jordan, one of the locations which fell to the Syrian army last week. In their talks with Israel, the Russians said that while giving Assad the nod to go for Daraa and Quneitra opposite Israel’s Golan border, they would withhold air support. Their bombardment also ignored stern American warnings: Last week, the State Department warned Assad and his Russian allies of “serious repercussions” for violating the de-escalations arrangement reached last year between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Then, on Saturday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley condemned the Syria attack on the southern Syrian borders with Israel and Jordan as “unambiguously violating” that arrangement. “Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any for escalations in Syria,” Haley said.
At the same time, on Sunday, social media reported that the US through its embassy in Amman had sent this message to all Southern Front (rebel) leaders: Make your own decision, but “you should not base your decision on the assumption or expectation of military intervention by us.” There is no official confirmation from Washington of this message. DEBKAfile: If the Trump administration has indeed backed away from supporting the southern front rebel leaders against Syrian army, Russian-backed attack, this may be interpreted as signifying President Donald Trump’s decision not to allow the contest over southwest Syria and Jordanian and Israel borderlands stand in the way of an early summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Israel would then be left to cope on its own with fending off the drive of the Syrian army and its allies, Hizballah and the pro-Iranian Shiite forces, up to its borders. In this eventuality, the IDF has two options:
- Non-intervention like the US and acceptance of a Syrian military presence along its northern border.
- Intervention by air and ground-to-ground missile strikes against Syrian military and allied targets to halt their advance. There is no sign of the Israeli government or military chiefs gearing up for such an operation.
But meanwhile, a Syrian refugee problem is building up on its Golan border. Some 12,000 refugees are reported to have fled their homes since the Syrian army captured small towns and villages in the Daraa province. Thousands are gathering on the Israeli border and setting up tents.